Sunday, 13 April 2014

fresh pomegranate juice and raspberry jam

a ripe homegrown pomegranate is a beautiful thing..i just love peeling off enough of the pink leathery skin to get a purchase with my fingers so that i can tear the fruit open..but it's not just a tactile thing because the tearing open makes a lovely sound..and then inside is the visual delight of the glistening ruby jewels nestling in white papery folds..i know some advocate banging the back of the opened fruit with a wooden spoon to extract the arils but for me that's a bit brutal..i like to extract the fruit with my fingers..gently..gently..

some fruit just doesn't lend itself to public consumption..i'm thinking mangoes and maybe bananas..and for me it's also pomegranates because i don't like the seeds..i haven't come up with a way of extracting the chewed seeds elegantly from my mouth so i eat and seed spit in private..although i don't mind downing a few in a salad..

one way around the seed thing is to juice the pomegranate but that's easier said than done..well for me anyway because i haven't discovered a nifty non spattering crime scene way of doing it took me ages yesterday to press the arils with a spoon against a sieve to extract the juice for my jam but not as long as the bloody cleaning up took..but it was worth the effort!

fresh pomegranate juice and raspberry jam
tea with hazel
makes 2 jars of 250 mls and a bit


500 gms raspberries*
500 gms sugar**
150 mls fresh organic pomegranate juice***
juice of half of an organic lemon


~ place ingredients in a large saucepan and heat over low heat until the sugar has dissolved
~ bring to the boil and boil until set has been reached
~ pour into sterilized jars and cap immediately

*     i used very reasonably priced fresh tasmanian raspberries..frozen berries could be used but i prefer not to use those available at the supermarket because they're imported
**   i like a tangy jam but for those who like their jam sweeter increase sugar quantity to 550-600
*** i needed 2 medium sized homegrown pomegranates to attain this amount of juice

now i want to make scones to have with my jam..with a whisker of cream too of course!

this post submitted to punk domestics

Wednesday, 9 April 2014

april in my garden

i've been very busy in the garden lately..i was up and out in the garden at about 7 am for 4-5 hours on three consecutive days this lovely it's been working on those quiet cool mornings..a few light showers here and there lately softened the soil and made the work a bit easier and then yesterday it rained and rained on the freshly dug soil..i'm happy..

the hard yakka

~  lavender, tied the flower stalks into small bundles and hung them up to dry..i'll use the dried lavender in soap making
~ perennial herbs such as lovage, tarragon and mint
~ cut dandelions back

~ spent annuals and biennials such as marigolds, carnations, rocket, tomato, pumpkin, beans, coriander and parsley
~ some of the over abundant nasturtium, flanders poppy and nettle seedlings that threaten to take over my garden
~ woody rose geranium, sage seedlings and a lavender (relocated)

~ compost and manure into vegetable garden beds for replanting
~ around rose bushes to eliminate the fibrous roots of a nature strip tree (it's the healthiest one in the street)
~ around garden beds to neaten the edges (i have gravel paths with no formal edging)

~ three types of garlic (early while, early red and italian red from digger's)
~ rose geranium suckers that had grown from the geranium plant i removed
~ sage seedings and lavender into herb garden

~ prunings, weeds, spent vegetable material cut up and added to the new vegetable garden bed (see below)
~ kitchen waste, egg cartons, paper towel, cardboard and newspaper added to the compost bin along with layering of some of the former material to aid decomposition
~ compost tea made with horse poo

prepared a new vegetable garden bed
~ i trimmed the kikuyu, covered the area in op shop purchased woollen blankets ($3-$4/each) and cardboard, put bricks around the edges to help stop the invading kikuyu and then layered the area thickly with kitchen waste, cut up garden material, horse poo and a generous amount of should be ready for digging in spring

the reward

~ green beans (scarlet runner and blue lake), egg plant, tomatoes, carrots, spring onions, butternut pumpkin, lettuce, chilli and rainbow chard
~ coriander, parsley, celery, tarragon, oregano, rosemary, thyme, mint, lemon verbena, sage, chives, lemon balm, comfrey, pineapple sage, lavender, nettles, fennel fronds, marigold petals, violets, roses, hollyhock flowers, nasturtium leaves and flowers, and carnations
~ rhubarb, pomegranate, cumquat and alpine strawberries

seeds collected
~ rocket, capsicum, coriander, chilli

1. don burke italian tomatoes..the best i've grown in years despite having grown the plants from really old seed
2. lavender
3. a little handful of alpine strawberries every day or so
4. the eggplant have been very prolific
5. a tiny very prolific and very sour tomato that self seeds every year..i blanched these and put them through a mouli and used the puree as a base for a sauce
6. look a bit like a zucchini and then becomes like a butternut pumpkin..last year i only had one whereas this year i have six
7. this is actually last year's crop of pomegranates..i pruned the tree quite heavily last year and it has only produced 8 pomegranates this year..
8. beans, beans and more beans..except they only started producing about 3 weeks ago..i didn't have one bean all summer (the heat has been one explanation for this anomaly)

more hard yakka

need to
~ pick chillies for drying
~ plant peas, broccoli, cabbage, onions, lettuce, carrots, beetroot, rainbow chard, broad beans, coriander, sweet peas, potatoes and spinach
~ finish tidying garden edges
~ stay on top of weeding
~ remove bean plants and eggplants when production ceases
~ watch crabapples for ripening
~ transplant black currant bush

see you next month for 'may in my garden'

Monday, 24 March 2014

chestnut cupcakes with chestnut butter cream

chestnut cupcakes with chestnut butter cream
tea with hazel
makes 12


chestnut cupcakes

3 large eggs
125 gms castor sugar
150 gms almond meal
300 gms unsweetened chestnut puree
3/4 teaspoon (tsp) baking powder
1 tsp vanilla essence (i used my own)

chestnut butter cream

65 gms butter
3-4 tablespoons (tbs) chestnut puree
pure icing sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla essence (i used my own)


finely shaved dark chocolate



~ beat eggs and sugar until thick and creamy
~ add chestnut puree, almond meal, baking powder and vanilla essence and mix until incorporated
~ pour the mix into a jug and divide mix between 12 hole paper case lined muffin tin
~ bake at 180 deg c for 30 minutes or until cooked when tested with a skewer
~ remove the cupcakes from tin to cool on a cooling rack

chestnut butter cream

~ beat the butter and chestnut puree until smooth
~ add vanilla and enough icing sugar to make a smooth, thick, mix

cupcake assembly

~ remove a 2 cm circle by 2 cm deep piece of cake from the centre of each cupcake
~ fill the cavity with a large teaspoon of chestnut butter cream
~ dust with chocolate

the cup, plate and vase are all recent op shop finds
the teapot is a recent purchase from a second hand shop in castlemaine
i bought it to join identical red, blue and orange op shop purchased teapots
i'd love to find yellow, brown, black and white ones to match

Thursday, 20 March 2014

dried fig and chestnut sourdough

it's the autumnal equinox
crisp leaves flutter along gutters
crackling indecipherable whispers
the tick tock of the seasonal clock gently pulsates
and the big hand softly softly guides
the precious orb we call home through celestial space

last autumn i made a similar loaf but this time i added chestnut honey as well as chestnut flour to the dough and instead of incorporating the figs throughout the dough i made a filling of unsweetened chestnut puree, dried figs and chestnut honey and i spread this on the rolled out dough..i wanted a versatile bread so i purposely didn't make it very sweet

fig and chestnut sourdough
tea with hazel



1 large tablespoon (tbs) active starter
100 gms organic bread flour
125 gms filtered water


8-10 organic figs cut small
2-3 tbs unsweetened chestnut puree
1-2 tbs organic chestnut honey


250 gms levain
250 gms organic bread flour
100 gms wholemeal biodynamic flour
50 gms chestnut flour
1 tbs organic chestnut honey
1 1/2 tbs crushed murray river salt (less if using conventional table salt)
filtered water



~ mix all ingredients, cover, and leave for 12-14 hours


~ place the figs, chestnut puree and honey in the bowl of a food processor and pulse the mixture briefly without pureeing the figs and until the mixture just forms a cohesive paste


~ place levain, flours and honey in the bowl of a stand mixer and mix adding enough filtered water to make a shaggy dough
~ autolyse for 20 minutes
~ add salt, mix briefly, rest for 5 minutes, then mix again for about 30 seconds
~ remove bowl from stand mixer, cover the dough with oiled cling film, and leave to prove until doubled
~ remove the dough to a lightly flour dusted bench, divide in two, and do two stretch and fold cycles with a 5-10 minute rest intervals
~ roll each piece of dough into an oblong and spread the dough with the filling leaving 2 cm borders free of filling
~  roll the dough and pinch seams closed
~ dust with flour and place seam side up in flour dusted bannetons
~ cover loosely with cling film and leave for 2-3 hours to prove or until a finger pressed into the dough leaves an impression
~ invert the dough onto a wooden peel, slash, slide onto baking surface (i use a cast iron plate) and bake with steam at 250 deg c for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 215 deg c and bake for a further 20 minutes or until cooked

san daniele proscuitto, holy goat brigid's well 
and dried fig and chestnut sourdough

gone are the hot days of summer..mornings are dewy and cloudy skies tantalising with a promise of rain..i'm happy..very happy..x

Tuesday, 18 March 2014

a tussie mussie for sylvia

had her 90th birthday on saturday
she had dinner with a group of friends that evening
and the next day her daughter took her to shepparton to visit sylvia's sister
 back to work on monday at the local opportunity shop
wearing a dress and lipstick
what a woman!

lemon verbena, carnations, rose buds, tiny apple and leaves, cumquat and leaves, lovage seed head,
lemon balm, lavender, mint flowers and leaves, rose geranium, erigeron and marigold 

long may you wave sylvia


Monday, 10 March 2014

blackberry season

i find it surprising that greek people don't eat blackberries*..they eat dandelions, frogs, snails, intestines..but not blackberries? and they don't eat mushrooms either*! i made a blackberry pie one autumn in edessa for eleftheria my landlady to try..she tasted it suspiciously and reported liking it but she never wanted to go foraging with me and she never accepted any on offer either..

i love them though and last week i was lucky enough to have a foraging day with my daughter alexandra..we didn't get many and the ones we did find were crunchy with seeds and a little past their best flavourwise..

my preserves cupboard is groaning with jam so i didn't want to make jam or jelly with them..instead i made an almond and blackberry cake and meringue nests filled with blackberry puree and cream and garnished with fig leaf dust** and blackberry syrup..that's it for this year's blackberries unfortunately..i had planned to go again with a friend but a daughter's wedding is taking priority over blackberries this year!

almond and blackberry cake
meringue nests with blackberry puree and cream garnished
with fig leaf dust** and blackberry syrup


*   my comments are based on the experiences i had while living in greece several decades ago
** i've recently discovered that fig leaves are edible so i dried fig leaves and crushed them to a very fine powder to use as a garnish

further reading (health benefits) (fig leaf tea)


~ i thought the almond and blackberry cake was a great recipe in which to use my precious blackberries because there were no other competing flavours to eclipse their beautiful autumn flavour..i think it's a versatile recipe that would work with other berries too and it would easily convert to gluten free by substituting the very small amount (40 gms) of plain flour with rice flour or any other gluten free flour

~ i like the flavour of the fig leaf tastes and smells just like a warm summer day under a fig tree

do you like blackberries or do you they're best left for the birds?

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

urban foraging

the bluestone cobbled lanes in my suburb were built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries for the night men who emptied the closet toilets..despite their less than salubrious history the lanes hold a fascination for me and when i go walking down one i'm taken to another world..

out the front, on the main streets, houses and gardens on their best behaviour
less self conscious when viewed from the lanes
back fences ramshackle and discordant
creepers and trees run riot

hear the sounds of the night man's cart
the clip clop of the horses hooves
and the wheels on the cobbled bluestone
in the eerie early morning dark 
see the vapour steaming horse nares
smell the sweaty hot horse smell
and (ignore) the stench of human excrement

tough, dark and serious
don't mess with me
volcano spewed aphanite
hewn by human hand
and hauled from the west of melbourne

i never see anyone else when i go walking down any of the lanes and that i's a way of getting away without getting away..and an added bonus are the fig festooned branches that drape themselves seductively across my path..each autumn i am able to pick figs to my heart's content..and this year has been no exception..usually i just eat them fresh but this year i decided to have another go at making fig jam..yep..i've made fig jam many times before but even when i've added lemon peel and juice to counteract the sweetness i've still found fig jam sickly sweet..

not too sweet vinegar fig jam
tea with hazel
makes 1 medium jar*


450 gms slightly under ripe figs, stems and blemishes removed, and cut to preferred size (i cut mine small)
325 gms sugar
100 mls filtered water
40 mls red wine vinegar
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar


~ place sugar, water and red wine vinegar in a saucepan, heat slowly, stirring, until sugar has melted, then bring to the boil
~ add the figs and boil until setting point has been reached (i used a potato masher to break up persistent pieces of fig)
~  remove from the heat and stir in balsamic vinegar to taste
~ pour into sterilised jar and seal


* the recipe may be doubled but any further increase in quantity tends to effect the cooking and setting times which can have a deleterious effect on the taste, colour and consistency of the jam

are you an urban forager? if so, what do you find in your area?

this post submitted to punk domestics